On Roadblocks, Ruts, and Walls: or, Did Anybody Get the Number of That Bus?

It’s been a…week. Aside from the general mayhem of a constantly changing three-and-a-half month old baby who refuses to nap during the day (which equals, no productivity time), I managed to sprain my ankle while out hiking with the hubby this last weekend.

Awesome. (Smell the sarcasm?)

What this equates to is so far, a week stuck on the couch, immobile–which is seriously difficult with a little one. We’ve got the whole living room set up like a cluttered tiny house, trying to squeeze everything I could possibly need for me and the Little Guy during the day into a ten-foot, reachable space. Needless to say, I’m quite ready for the foot to be good again. Scooting down the stairs on my butt is not so much fun as I remember from my childhood.

Having even the remote chance of productivity shot down (the Little Guy also doesn’t *really* like sitting still, and in my able-bodied days, typically requires me to carry him around to keep him moderately appeased, and therefore, this lack of walking is proving particularly challenging) hasn’t stopped my inner self from beating the crap out of my psyche about writing. Because, hey, why not kick myself while I’m down?

My mother is a mental health councilor, and over the past few days, I’ve started to really appreciate the impact of what she calls selective-thinking. Basic example? Imagine you’re standing behind a screen. Outside the screen are thoughts, good thoughts and bad thoughts. The bad thoughts get through the screen no problem, but the good ones are blocked, unless they can be twisted to seem like bad thoughts. “Hey! I got into an awesome anthology!” becomes “Yeah, but my story’s probably the worst one,” or “Yeah, but it’s a reprint, so it’s not like it counts as a real sale.”

Or “Hey! I have a healthy baby!” becomes “Yeah, but not making eye contact with him continuously will probably give him abandonment complexes later in life.”

Seriously, Brain? WTF?

Beginning to recognize the ways my own brain sabotages my day-to-day happiness and sense of self-worth is at least a step in stopping it. We always talk about the “inner critic” or “inner editor” as only a part of one’s writing life, but truth is, there’s an inner critic inside our heads all the time. Some are just better at silencing it than others, and that’s definitely something I’m working on.

Because you know what? This last year has been pretty awesome. I wrote the rough draft of my first original novel. About a year ago today, I finished a fabulously fun fiction project that wound up being about 250,000 words long (whoa). I edited and got two new stories out doing the fiction rounds, which is more than I’ve gotten out in the past two years. I *did* sell a story this year, and even if it’s a reprint, it’s an amazing anthology and I’m thrilled to bits to be included in it among all these rockstar authors who are infinitely more published than I am to this point. I had my ridiculously adorable son this June, and *still* managed to post a bunch of fun interviews with my fellow authors (with one left to go!), and have even begun the process of setting aside time every week with a sitter so I can put in some dedicated writing time. And while it may only be once or twice a week for two hours, that’s two hours I otherwise wouldn’t have, and that’s enough to make at least a little progress on my upcoming novel project. I’ve also learned a lot about plotting and structure these past few months, which will only help me become a better, more conscious writer. I formatted a new book project, too, on top of that. And the boy is happy, healthy, and growing! We moved, I’ve read eighteen (Wait! Nineteen!) out of the twenty-five books I wanted to read this year, and am still plugging along nicely on that after rediscovering my Kindle.

Are there other things I wish I could get done? Of course. But this past year doesn’t look so shabby when I spell it all out. And even acknowledging that is something to be proud of.


I’m–Like–Totally Seriously, You Guys…

What does it mean to be “serious” about writing fiction? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because of a piece of encouragement from a good friend of mine said the other day. A hundred career masters will advise the green apprentice within their field that if there’s anything other than [INSERT CAREER OPTION HERE]  you’d like to do, then you probably shouldn’t be [INSERT CAREER OPTION HERE]. As per writing? Writing is tough. Sometimes it’s incredibly lonely, and the mind-games that can go on within one’s own head can be daunting. It’s not for the faint of heart, but then, neither is any artistic career (or any career one’s passionate about, for that matter). There are no “easy” paths for any long-lasting and fulfilling career.

So what does it mean to be “serious” about writing fiction? What kind of effort or accomplishments or goals or behavior signal “seriousness” verses “dabbling” or whatever else one does when one’s not serious about something? The thing is, I don’t feel as if I’ve been as serious as I could be, because right away a number of things popped into my head that defined–in my mind–what a serious author looks like and does. In fact, I made a list (Of course, I did!) of certain behaviors and efforts that–if I adhered to them–would convince me that I was “serious” about writing fiction.

This is similar to the non-official Rule of 5 that I sometimes cite–Read, Write, Edit, Submit, Repeat–but is more focused, and more personal to what I feel would make me feel that I was giving a full 100%. Think of the following as a list of traits I’ve sketched for some nebulous future writer version of myself: when I daydream about who I’d be as a “successful writer” at some undisclosed future time, this is what I see.


The List of Being Serious

1. I would adhere to a regular work schedule. 

2. I would not only write rough drafts, I would edit them to completion and submit them.

3. I would produce at least a small, measurable body of work each year. 

4. I would trust my process. 

5. I would continue, with defined effort, to pursue an excellence of craft, always striving to be better than I am right now.

6. I would be aware of the market trends and news, but without self-judgement.

7. I would have fun and be relaxed. 


There are, of course, a half-dozen details that go with those seven items, but those are the seven that if I could ever achieve, would make me feel–without doubt–that I was striving with my whole heart towards my dreams of writing success. Those things do not guarantee success, nor will they make any part of my individual writing journey easier: they’re just a template for who I hope to become in the coming years.

#6 and #7 are perhaps the most important, because I’m starting to realize that just as with pregnancy no two women experience this life-changing event in the same way, so too does each writer forge their own path–without much guidance or quantifiable structure–and that their path may not end up looking like any other writer’s ever has. What works for one of us very likely won’t work for others; habits, techniques, approaches, guidelines, “rules”, and lists, all the things we struggle with and all the things that come easily, are all different, and combined in a hundred thousand different ways to create our own career labyrinths. 

I’ve only just started learning this, but the more I consider it, the more I feel like for the first time since I started eyeing a writing career, that I may have finally started on the right path–or at least found a new, unexplored path within my labyrinth–that will take me someplace unexpected.